[Scottish] Re: BBC/DRM

Robert Johnston robert at pausebuttonedit.com
Thu Feb 22 12:58:28 GMT 2007

> Erm, not everything on the BBC is produced in-house, they commission
> programming from outside production houses too.  I think it's a bit  
> of a
> stretch to suggest "we" "own" the BBC and its content - we may fund  
> it,
> but that doesn't mean we're assigned ownership.

I think I was pretty careful to distinguish BBC in-house content from  
commissioned or licensed content. If I wasn't clear, my apologies and  
you're quite right, although you're confusing different senses of  
production to some extent. If the BBC is the sole funder of a work  
made by an independent production house, the BBC is the producer of  
that work. It's likely that there are individual agreements made as  
re licensing and copyright etc.

Regarding ownership -- yes, we do own the BBC, just as we own the  
NHS. Who else would own it?

Regarding ownership of content -- that's a murkier issue of course,  
but there's an argument that BBC in-house content ultimately belongs  
to its license fee payers. The producer of a creative work has  
ownership of that work by default, so the BBC owns its in-house  
material (unless it transfers ownership). And since we own the BBC ...

On the wider issue of DRM, I was a recording musician at one point  
and am a member of the MCPS/PRS alliance (a non-profit organisation  
that collects mechanical and performance royalties and distributes  
them to musicians). I have sympathy with some of their concerns about  
DRM, as alluded to by Daniel above. It's hard for content producers  
to get paid as it is, and exploitation of works that bypasses the  
proper channels makes it harder.

Recent research, though, has shown that illegal music 'sharing' via  
p2p (i.e. piracy) has no significant effect on legal music sales, and  
thus no significant effect on artist royalties. The reason the RIAA  
and the big record companies have their panties in a bunch about  
sharing, and the reason they're so gung-ho about DRM, is that they  
see that the market is changing in a way that will edge out their  
traditional methods of exploiting artists and consumers ('packaging'  
charges and the like in the first instance and inflated costs for the  
physical product in the second) and the only way they can see of  
retaining control of the market is to retain control of their product  
and its resellers. This is much harder when the medium for the  
product is not physical, so they try to give the product some of the  
trappings of a physical medium, and force the resellers to  
incorporate those trappings by refusing to deal with them otherwise.

So -- in my view -- the DRM question isn't a question about whether  
artists are getting paid or not; it's a question about how the  
recording industry has traditionally operated its business, and  
whether you think that way of operating is benign.

Speaking to that question, you may be interested to know that many  
very successful bands do not break even until their third platinum  
record. See here: http://negativland.com/albini.html (warning: foul  
language and angry insight).

I haven't thought much about this outside of music, so I'll leave off  


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